6th-inning grand slam propels Huskies in doubleheader split


Tim Dodge

Senior utility player Sam Mallinder (18) high-fives the first base coach after hitting a single that drove in a run during the third inning. The Huskies lost the game 7-6. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

By Zachary Bertram, Senior Sports Reporter

DeKALB – After dropping game one 5-4, NIU softball (22-23, 11-11 MAC) came back to win game two 8-4 and split the doubleheader against the Western Michigan University Broncos (16-23, 10-10 MAC) Wednesday. Senior infielder Kelly Walinski belted a sixth inning go-ahead grand slam to power the Huskies to the game two win. 


The Huskies dropped a back-and-forth game one by a score of 5-4. Junior pitcher Rissa Bajusz tossed her second consecutive complete game en route to earning the win. 

Freshman utility player Danielle Stewart gave up five earned runs on eight hits and suffered the loss. 

Junior infielder Cassidy Brendtke shouldered the offensive load for the Broncos, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs. NIU senior utility player Sam Mallinder had a strong day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs. 

The Huskies were aggressive on the base path, stealing four bases in game one and getting caught stealing once.

“We live by being aggressive on the bases, that’s going to come with consequences,” said NIU softball head coach Christina Sutcliffe. “I’m never going to be mad at them (the players) for being too aggressive on the bases, that’s our M.O.”

NIU got on the board first with two runs in the bottom of the second inning. An RBI double from freshman utility player Cara Cruthers gave the Huskies a 2-0 lead. 

Both teams added one run in the third inning to give the Huskies a 3-1 lead, entering the fourth inning. 

The Broncos put together a three-run fifth inning to take a 4-3 lead. Senior catcher Courtney Farrish notched the game-tying RBI, and Brendtke delivered the go-ahead RBI single. Mallinder responded in the bottom half of the fifth inning with a game tying single to even the score at 4-4.

Brendtke delivered again for the Broncos with a go-ahead RBI single in the top of the seventh inning to give Western Michigan a 5-4 lead. 

Bajusz retired the Huskies in order in the bottom of the seventh inning, securing the 5-4 win for the Broncos.  


The Huskies earned the 8-4 comeback win in game two in dramatic fashion thanks to Walinski’s go-ahead grand slam. 

“We needed that win in the worst way,” Sutcliffe said. “Obviously things haven’t been going our way lately, so to be able to come out after they took the lead back and Kelly having that huge hit, it’s huge.”

After trailing 4-3 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, junior outfielder Courtney James tied the game with an RBI walk. Following James’ walk, Walinski launched a first pitch grand slam to give the Huskies an 8-4 advantage. 

“I don’t know that it (Walinski’s hit) comes bigger than that,” Sutcliffe said. “We really needed to punch back and pull that game out … We had runners in scoring position every inning but one inning that that kid pitched against us. We just couldn’t put the crooked number up, so for her (Walinski) to be able to do that and get more than one run in the inning was big time.”

NIU junior pitcher Emily Dato pitched three shutout innings in relief to earn the win while Western Michigan senior pitcher Autumn Godwin suffered the loss, allowing four earned runs on seven hits. 

Western Michigan took an early 1-0 in the top of the first inning thanks to an RBI single from junior outfielder Haley Boxwell. 

The Huskies scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 3-1 lead, capped off by an RBI single from junior infielder Caitlyn Shumaker.

Freshman infielder Riley Chumbley knocked a pinch-hit, two-out three RBI double in the top of the fifth inning to give the Broncos a 4-3 lead.

The first five Huskie batters in the bottom of the sixth inning all reached base safely and scored – four on Walinski’s grand slam – giving NIU an 8-4 lead. 

Walinski’s grand slam proved to be the difference in the game, as Dato recorded the final three outs to secure the 8-4 Huskies win. 


The Huskies’ next game will be at noon Friday against the University at Buffalo at Nan Harvey Field in Buffalo, New York. Live stats will be available via SideArm Stats.